Artemis’ Giant Leap

Where were you at 0147 hrs ET on 16 November 2022? This may be the question we ask one another in the future when we look back at when the Artemis generation began. The historic moment of the launch of Artemis I represents another giant leap for humanity, building on the first steps on the moon with the Apollo program. The Artemis program continues our human journey of exploration, seeking what’s over the horizon and using the newfound geography for our survival and benefit. Who knew what would follow in Neil Armstrong’s footprints? We now know it’s Artemis, taking important steps in national leadership and inspiration.

The Artemis I launch reestablishes the space transportation capability that the United States discontinued at the end of the Apollo program. We are proud to see our nation’s space program take the next steps toward the surface of the moon. Artemis provides a fundamental new capability enabling us to retain and grow U.S. leadership in space by establishing a sustainable presence on the moon in preparation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.

Witnessing this engineering marvel move from concept to production, and now to operation, is an historic moment. To the companies and organizations who served as contractors with NASA, thank you for your industry leadership. We appreciate Lockheed Martin who built the Orion spacecraft; Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Teledyne Brown who built the powerful Space Launch System (SLS); and Jacobs who built the Exploration Ground Systems. We also salute the European Space Agency and Airbus for their contribution to the Orion spacecraft, the European Service Module.

We know the lead contractors also created an impressive supplier network comprising thousands of companies who have brought Artemis to this point. We recognize their vital contributions, though there are too many to list by name here. We are proud that so many of these organizations are AIAA Corporate Members and are involved in shaping the future of aerospace.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Watching rocket launches is one of them. They are exciting to witness in person, even for those of us with many years of experience in this industry. For me, it was a tremendous thrill to see the entire SLS system work so well together. For many of you in the industry, this launch is the culmination of a career’s worth of effort. For others, it’s one of the first launches of many more as your career moves forward. For all of you who have worked on Artemis, thank you! Thank you for your incredible dedication, passion, and hard work to help make our country’s exploration efforts a reality. As some say, space is hard. We recognize the long hours and difficult challenges you have overcome.

We were excited to realize one of our goals of sharing this launch experience with young people – the Artemis generation. Through Students To Launch (S2L), a new national STEM education initiative, we hosted 48 middle school students from El Paso, Texas, and New Haven, Connecticut, at NASA Kennedy Space Center for four days in November. This group stayed up way past their bedtime to watch history being made. We are pleased that NASA recognizes the importance of this type of inspiration. Just a few weeks earlier during 2022 ASCEND, NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said, “We need to prioritize the Artemis generation. I’m proud to give a shout out to AIAA and the Students To Launch initiative. When I look at these students, I see the first crew to Mars. That’s why it’s so important that we show them what it means to be part of the Artemis generation.”

As we enter the Artemis era, I’m reminded that some of you may not remember what the Apollo era felt like. It was a different time. We were in a direct and clear competition with the Soviet Union and needed to establish our national capabilities. Space exploration was fueled by our national mandate to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth. Today, we are getting to know Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, who will deliver the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface. We are excited about the leaps we will take with the Artemis program – exploring new frontiers by extending the human neighborhood beyond low Earth orbit and learning even more about our universe to benefit everyone on Earth.

Read more about the creation of the Artemis program, documented in the AIAA archives housed in Aerospace Research Central:

Artemis’ Giant Leap